Theatrical Release: March 2nd/March 9th 1988
DVD Release: March 8th, 2016
Directed by Agnés Varda
Review by Craig Sorensen
CineliciousPics gives a much needed release to two Agnés Varda collaborations with actress Jane Birkin with their double feature of Jane B. par Agnés V. and Kung-Fu Master! on Blu-Ray. This release sees the US debut of the former, a ‘documentary’ about Birkin’s life and work, and a new 2K remaster of Kung-Fu Master!, originally released here on video as Le Petit Amour-maybe a less confusing title for the stupid among us. I would love to sit in on a screening with people expecting a martial arts film.
Jane B. par Agnés V. finds Varda interviewing Birkin in a sort of rambling, lackadaisically structured biopic littered with revealing thoughts about the actress’s life and short scripted skits casting the actress in various genre films. The film begins with Birkin meeting Varda at a coffee shop and talking about the nature of films and asking what type of questions will be asked of her, real or phony? So I think you kind of need to take some of this film with a grain of salt. Whether the film is a true document or not, it is an entertaining and surprisingly surreal film, with Varda recreating many famous paintings with her own strange touches like using one of Dali’s paintings as a setting for a comedic bickering couple lost in the desert.
Kung-Fu Master! is based on a story by Birkin (told in the previous film-which explains why the two are paired together in this collection) in which an older woman falls in love with a teenager, here played by Varda’s 14 year old son Mathieu Demy. While at a party for Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Birkin’s real-life daughter), Julien (Demy) has too much to drink. Lucy’s mother Mary-Jane (Birkin) helps him to throw up and shortly thereafter starts to develop an obsession with the boy. The two eventually start a kind of relationship. Of course, things don’t end well.
While the subject matter sounds like exploitation movie fare, the film is light on sex (no nudity ya perverts). It serves as more an examination of the varying levels of emotional maturity in it’s main characters and how they play off of each other. Of course, a relationship like this will never last, which Mary-Jane knows full well. There is also an undercurrent of darkness with the looming AIDS crisis thrown into the mix. It sounds very heavy handed but Varda is able to keep things from getting too bogged down with emotional baggage. It’s not a laff-riot but the film isn’t all weeping and yelling as it could be in the hands of a less talented filmmaker.
Both films have had new 2K restorations and look fantastic. Both films have a nice filmic look free of digital artifacts. The DTS-HD mono audio sounds great as well. All in all this is a great looking and sounding set. The films are split between two discs. On each disc is the original theatrical trailer and a short interview with the director about the film.